It is the goal of many a GeekDad to instill in his children a sense of wonder in the sciences.
The difficulty often comes in the "how." It can be amazingly difficult to explain to your offspring just how cool, say, chemical engineering is. I believe I got thoroughly trounced with a training lightsaber the last time I brought up the wonders of fish taxonomy with my five year old. So we resort to stuffing our shelves with the likes of Dr. Axelrod’s Atlas and wait for the magic to happen. Soon you discover that throwing books at them isn’t always the best answer either, particularly when they are young. I don’t know many people that say "I knew I wanted to be a/an
(insert career path) when I picked up a really dry book on the subject." What you’re more apt to hear is a tale of them doing something. Thus begins a series of posts picking a field of scientific study and a corresponding hobby/project that goes beyond a trip to the museum.
So, what if you wanted to raise entomologists? Introduce your kids to beekeeping.
Beekeeping is a great hobby and a fantastic way to get your kids hooked on insects. It also is not for the faint of heart, so lets get the warnings out of the way. Hang around upset bees enough and you will get stung, regardless of what protection you are wearing. Observing from a short distance will usually prevent this, but know that there’s still a decent chance of it happening to you or your child. Make sure your kids understand this as well.
Almost all keepers have EpiPens, and make sure you know there is a fresh one around when you go to make your first trip to the bees.
Still with me? Read on.
You will need some manner of protection. At the very least, you should purchase a veil. Some come with hats and others do not. I’ve used a baseball cap with mine and sun hats work as well. You can also go hog wild and purchase a full bee suit tho this isn’t necessary.
If you are looking to save a few dollars there are alternatives that can be picked up at your local thrift store. Generally speaking, you want clothes that are light in color (dark clothing can make bees VERY angry) and thick/loose enough to keep stingers from hitting their mark. My son and I use light tan windbreakers, khaki pants and sneakers with thick socks. Gardening gloves will do in a pinch to protect your hands. As the photo aptly demonstrates, you are not going to be impressing any ladies with your garb. So long as it keeps the little flying ladies with the butt needles from getting to you, all is well.
Next up, find yourself an experienced keeper. There are beekeepers all over the country, and more than likely there’s a few right under your nose. Some offer observatory hives to give a brief taste, but let me assure you it isnt the same as getting into the thick of it. There are ogarnizations such as the Eastern Apicultural Society, as well as forums like those found at Beesource. Check around, make some calls and ask if you may join them. That’s how I got my start at an apiary in downtown Philadelphia.
My son and I began beekeeping this past spring an at the Queen Village Community Garden. There have been hives here in the city of brotherly love for more than 20 years. More than a quarter million bees live around the corner from my apartment and I had not a clue!
Thus far the broodling and I have had a blast. I’ve taken him down to see the hives several times, and he’s come out unscathed and somewhat enamored with the girls (all bees, save for the few drones, are female). Often he’ll take it upon himself to try and "help" some of the bees that have gotten squashed/stuck/injured. We’ll see how fearless he proves after he gets stung that first time. Then again, that may be the very thing he remembers steering his futureself to a career in entomology.